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Man sentenced to 47 years to life for kidnapping 9-year-old girl from upstate New York park


BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (AP) — A man was sentenced Wednesday to 47 years to life in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl who went missing from a state park in upstate New York last year.

Craig N. Ross Jr. pleaded guilty in February to taking the girl in September from a campground at Moreau Lake State Park, a rural area about 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Albany. The disappearance sparked a 48-hour-search that ended when she was found alive at a camper Ross was staying in.

“Because of you, I can't sleep at night," the girl, who was not present, said in a statement read in court by Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer L. Buckley. “I was imprisoned for two and a half days, and now you will be imprisoned for 47 years."

Judge James A. Murphy III also issued a protective order for the girl so that Ross cannot contact her in person or through mail.

Ross, 47, was shackled when he entered the courtroom and appeared to show little emotion throughout the sentencing. He declined to speak.

Some family members of the little girl also spoke directly to Ross in court before the sentencing was announced.

“What kind of person wakes up in the morning and decides they’ll steal someone’s kid? What kind of monster does that?” the little girl’s uncle said while staring at Ross, who was looking down.

“Look at me,” he demanded from Ross, who appeared to meet the uncle's eyes for a moment before averting his gaze.

The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify victims in sexual abuse cases and is withholding the uncle’s name for that reason.

The little girl had been riding on a bike path with friends at the campground near her home on the evening of Sept. 30 when she went to take one last lap of the path on her own and didn't return.

More than 100 people searched for her. A break in the case came when law enforcement guarding the girl's home saw someone place a ransom note in its mailbox.

Police eventually matched fingerprints on the note to Ross, who was in the database because of a 1999 drunk driving case. State police and an FBI SWAT team then descended on the camper, where the child was found in a cabinet.

Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen told reporters she was happy with the sentence following the hearing.

“The family heard this defendant say that he's guilty of this crime. He admitted he did it, and those who would had to have been called upon to testify were spared having to relive that trauma,” she said.

Ross, who had previously been scheduled to stand trial this month, was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison for the kidnapping charge and 22 years to life for predatory sexual assault of a child, with the sentences to be served consecutively.


Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.